Nearly all of us have days when we feel we’ve been run over by a rhinoceros. You know what I mean, right?
Sometimes we can’t help it and there’s nothing we can do to get out of the way. But often we can manage whatever it is that’s about to flatten us like a pancake.
We’re all different in the ways we respond to the probable but often overlooked, downplayed, or outright ignored problems that I call “gray rhinos”: they’re charging right at us, but we don’t always see them or react properly. The Pancake is just one personality type describing how some of us respond to these gray rhinos. Take the Gray Rhino Quiz to find out how well you deal with the obvious dangers in your life, work and in the world around you.
Some of us are just the right amount of prepared, like Game Wardens. Many of us are like Tourists on Safari: we want to see the big important things that might affect us, for better or for worse, but are still developing that skill. Then there are the Ostriches among us who see things coming but refuse to look. For a Chicken Little, every little sign foretells disaster, but may get in the way of seeing the real problems.
Some of us never see them coming in the first place and get flattened like the Pancake. I’m not going to lie – this is a tough one.
But think of it this way: everything from here on out has got to be better than where you are now.
I’m so grateful to DEAL, the Chicago artist who drew the Gray Rhino Quiz images. The expression on the rhino’s face in the Pancake cartoon he made is nothing short of genius. Look at that grimace; the poor rhino feels guilty for what he did to the unfortunate fellow underfoot. It makes me think of how an obvious, scary problem may simply be a push toward a better direction.
It may not sound like it, but there is good news here. Sometimes, getting trampled is what needs to happen to give people the motivation to prevent future problems, whether that’s by changing your habits or investing in prevention. After the 2013 Calgary floods, for example, the city paid for residents to flood-proof their homes as much as possible –but it only reimbursed for damages if homeowners did flood proofing.
I have a personal example of changing habits after a trampling. Like everyone, I wasn’t good at following the dentist’s advice to come in every six months; the time between visits tended to stretch considerably longer. Even when I got scolded by a dental hygienist who was not so gentle, I still let too much time go by. But then I had to have two gum surgeries, and I make my next three-month appointment before I even leave the dentist’s office at each cleaning.
Sometimes there are things we just can’t save: an obsolete technology or business model, a bad relationship, a habit that’s not doing us any good. In those cases, the biggest mistake we can make is failing to step aside in time: either the thing you’re holding on to gets trampled, or you do.
You may be in a situation that is a lost cause. In this case, your strategy is to get out of the way and let it get trampled as you watch from a safe perch.
If your quiz result showed that you’re a Pancake, try the following strategies:
· Take a time out to really pay attention. Write down a list of the things that make you worry. Now ask yourself about each one: What power do you have to change the outcome? Can you save the day? Can you just get out of the way? Are there some things that are worth letting go of so that they get trampled, not you.
· Break the challenge in front of you down into small steps. Sometimes we do nothing to change the course of disasters because we feel we have no power. You’ll feel less helpless if you feel there are things you can do to make a difference.
· Ask yourself if what the thing you’re holding on to is really worth it. Picture what your life might look like –and how much better it could be- if you simply stepped away from the situation.
· Ask yourself what you might do to keep from getting trampled the next time. Something terrible can be life-changing in a good way. Some friends who have had life-threatening health challenges have been grateful at how those crises led them to create more balanced, satisfying lives.
The important thing to understand is that once you’re aware if you have Pancake tendencies, you can do something about them. The sooner you start working on this, the more likely you are to get out of the way.
By taking the quiz and assessing your Gray Rhino type, you’ve already taken a step toward identifying and prioritizing the risks in your life, work, and the world.
Check back next week for the final Gray Rhino Personality Profile: The Game Warden.